Deleuze and Guattari coin the term “conceptual personae” in What is Philosophy? My aim here is not to retain true to their signification of the term, though I am vaguely influenced by it. In other words, I’m not interested in a discussion of what Deleuze and Guattari really meant by “conceptual personae”. If I’ve gotten it wrong, so much the worse for them. A conceptual personae is a type of subject that operates with concepts. Here the term “subject” is misleading. Subject does not refer to minds or psychology, but is closer to the concept of “offices” or “subject-positions”. In the social world we talk about offices and occupations. There are teachers, police officers, priests, managers, presidents, senators, etc. Although these offices are always occupied by persons that have bodies and minds, the office itself is not a person. The office is rather a set of duties, obligations, and capacities. The duties, obligations, and capacities of a police officer are different than those of a teacher. Moreover, the office of police officer and teacher relate to the world and others in very different way. “Subject”, perhaps, isn’t the best word; but I don’t know another.
This is how it is with conceptual personae in philosophy. The conceptual personae aren’t minds or persons or individuals. Rather, conceptual personae are normative types that operate on concepts in particular ways. It is a set of norms governing how concepts are to be operated on. Philosophy is inhabited by three main conceptual personae, but there are others as well. There is first the conceptual personae of the philosopher. Here it’s important to proceed with caution, for all three conceptual personae are referred to as philosophers in ordinary English. Moreover, hybrids of all three can be formed, where a conceptual operator is a philosopher in one matter and an anti-philosopher in another. Perhaps I need a different word. The philosopher operates on concepts with a set of normative premises: reality, divinity (if it exists), and morality, the philosopher holds, are rational. In claiming they are rational, the philosopher claims these things can be known through reason and observation, and that a demonstration is possible for each and every true claim. They hold that there is a true reality, and that real truth exists. The philosopher holds that we are capable of ruling ourselves because we are capable of knowing reality and moral law through our own reason and observation, and that therefore we do not need leaders to guide us. That is, the philosopher thinks wisdom is available to everyone if they pursue it. Philosophers don’t necessarily claim that they know reality, the moral law, or divinity, only that it can be known. Hegel was a philosopher. Spinoza was a philosopher. Aristotle was likely a philosopher. Surprisingly, it looks like Deleuze was a philosopher (if we take his Spinozism seriously). Philosophers fell into disrepute in the 20th and 21st century.
Anti-philosophers argue something very different. I draw this term from Badiou, but again with no intention of representing his thought. Where philosophers hold reality is rational and knowable, anti-philosophers hold that reality is fundamentally irrational and therefore is something that can ever be known. Where philosophers argue that there are truths, that it’s possible to be mistaken about justice or the nature of reality, anti-philosophers argue that there is only opinion or doxa. Where the philosopher argues that we can be persuaded by reason and that we can govern ourselves by reason, the anti-philosopher argues that there is only force or power. If I’m convinced by something, the anti-philosopher says, it’s not because the reasons given entailed the truth of the claim, but because I’ve been seduced by a certain discourse and habituated to associate in this way. I’ve been interpellated. Where the philosopher argues that there is a reality (or a few in multi-verse hypotheses), the anti-philosopher argues that reality is a construction. Where the philosopher argues that there are objective truths about morality and justice, the anti-philosopher argues that there is only custom and power. The philosopher, using reason and observation (which is what makes her work philosophy) operates on concepts in an attempt to demonstrate these things. Hume was an example of an anti-philosopher. Nietzsche was another. Late Wittgenstein was an anti-philosopher. Baudrillard and Foucault were both anti-philosophers. Derrida probably was an anti-philospher as well. Kant was an anti-philosopher in the first Critique (though of a very unusual sort), and was a philosopher in the second Critique.
The mysterian is a sort of hybrid between the philosopher and the anti-philosopher. The mysterian is a sort of point of indiscernibility between religion or myth and philosophy. His mode of operation resembles that of the religious, yet he still uses careful argumentation to illustrate his claims. Like the philosopher, the mysterian holds that there is a Truth (usually of a divine nature). Like the anti-philosopher, he doesn’t think this Truth can be demonstrated through reason and observation. Rather, the mysterian holds that a special encounter or intuition is required to know this Truth. The mysterian traffics in gnosis not episteme. The two most famous mysterians today are Levinas and Marion; Levinas with his encounter with the Other, Marion with his saturated phenomena. Wittgenstein, at the end of the Tractatus, is mysterian. Badiou with his doctrine of the event sometimes seems mysterian. Plato is a mysterian in Book VI of the Republic when he talks of the Good beyond being and reason. Heidegger often sounds like a mysterian when he speaks of sendings of being. There are others.
It would be a mistake to think that philosophy should banish so as to side solely with the philosopher. With Badiou, we can say that philosophy passes into terror whenever it attempts to banish the anti-philosopher and the mysterian. Rather, these three subject operators are integral to philosophy. The philosopher forever pushes us to provide good reasons for our claims and to take seriously that perhaps some claims are better than others, more sound than others, where reality, ethics, and divinity are concerned. The anti-philosophy perpetually points out the pretensions of reason and those places where reason really hasn’t produced an argument for its claims but is instead just advancing a privilege, ideology, or myth. Anti-philosophy reveals obscurantist roots at work in the philosopher and the philosopher, in response, is forced to become better. There is no Kant (a philosopher) without Hume. The mysterian perpetually points out the limits of reasons and raises the question of whether Spinoza and Hegel are conceptually possible (Goedel, a mysterian, for example) or whether there is a beyond that reason can never touch. The three produce a tension with one another that everywhere propels thought towards inventiveness.